Mac Pro teardown

The ‘thermal column’ thing is actually pretty neat. Not fundamentally different from other ‘hot components touch the big heatsink, which dominates the chassis layout and airflow’ designs (eg. BTX); but definitely more elegant. It doesn’t strictly constrain the form (a variety of shapes suit the ‘central airflow’ constraint); but the form chosen is one of the ones that could follow that function, though probably not the most practical one.

Why it’s shaped like R2-D2, rather than a cube(hey, you could have crammed in a 3rd GPU or a second CPU!), a triangular prism, or any number of other shapes that could accommodate the central thermal core, that’s more of a ‘Because Jonny Ives says so, that’s why’ thing.

It looks like grandstanding to me. I’d have been more impressed if they’d managed to make it fit a 19" rackmount.

Oh, you aren’t alone in being unimpressed at how they chose the absolute least rack-mountable design in the recent history of Apple. Maybe a wine rack?

I haven’t been able to find exact dimensions on the internal triangular assembly with daughtercards; but it certainly looks like, given the way that triangles fairly neatly pack into rectangles, they could have put several such assemblies, lying horizontally next to one another, in a single 3Uish case. Had they been so motivated.

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Apple doesn’t play well with the other children.

Steve Jobs invented the concept of ‘play’. The other children who are copying him just don’t understand it properly.

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Ah, I see we’re back to the days of real workstations. Think Sun and SGI. Easy to repair, but totally proprietary and while expensive, you can’t build a machine anywhere close to the same price/performance ratio.

Yes, the CPU is upgradable, but I wouldn’t. Apple designed the thermals and power supply (it’s only 450W…) of the Mac Pro to fit a certain range of chips. If you drop a high-TDP Xeon in there you are asking for trouble.

Upgrading the GPUs is another issue. One of them has the SSD socket on it, and the both have Apple’s own compression connectors (a page right out of SGI’s playbook). Unless Apple makes newer cards available you are stuck with what you have.

Best advice? Buy a new Pro, sell the old one. I get the feeling these machines will hold their resale value like most Apple gear.

You can’t get into too much trouble considering Apple sells them with the same chip (but at a premium of $1000 over the DIY upgrade cost).

I would only buy one of these if I had Mac-exclusive apps that absolutely had to have speed right at my desktop, such as making movies or retouching lots of photos or doing graphic design. Pretty much everything else can be done either on cheaper Linux boxes or in some form of cloud hosting environs. In fact, I’d go so far as to make my desktop a little slower to self-enforce a work-ethos to constantly figure out how to offload the computation to other, cheaper-to-run CPUs/clusters/cloud formations.

Don’t automatically assume Apple puts the same power supply in the low and high end models.

I would only buy one of these if I had Mac-exclusive apps that absolutely had to have speed right at my desktop, such as making movies or retouching lots of photos or doing graphic design

That is exactly who these are for.

Of course. But that’s not the point.

Huh, that’s somewhat surprising, as Apple normally makes a pretty hefty profit by charging substantially more for higher capacity drives, etc. than they cost them. I would have expected the price difference to go the other direction for the higher end machines…

In the case of the mac pro we are talking about a beast of a machine when you get to the top end. This is the specs of the most crazy one you can buy off their site:

IIRC you can actually order an even higher spec’d one if required for very high-end uses. Anyway, a 12 core Processor and 2x6gb video cards do not come cheaply, unless you’re apple and can demand better pricing because they’re the only manufacturer who’ll be ordering serious volumes of such things.

Apple is still charging a hefty premium for CPU and memory upgrades, so the lower-spec Mac Pro’s are still likely cheaper than DIY builds. It appears that the reason for the price differential is that AMD is giving them a screaming deal on the video cards: for the top-line cards it seems that “AMD is allowing its $3,200 workstation card be sold on Apple’s latest Mac Pro for about $750. That is the number one reason the PC loses out in this particular battle.”

You probably save more (as compared to DIY) as you upgrade the video card, with the savings more than offsetting the DIY losses when you upgrade the CPU and memory.

Ah, I was wondering what parts Apple was getting the sweetheart deal on. Looks like a Hackintosh version doesn’t make much sense, then - even if Apple keeps the same prices for the Pros as the parts costs decrease, it’s still unlikely the prices will go down enough to make up the difference on the graphics cards any time soon.

Rack mounting these would require a bit of effort to make the round support blocks, but you could fit two of them in a 4Ux12" deep box. They should cool just fine, as they use forced air. And you’d end up with three times the machine per unit volume of the old Mac Pro tower.

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